In 2015, there were 24,025 documented suicides in Japan, that equates to almost 70 people killing themselves each and every day. The Tojinbo Cliffs are a national park located in Fukui Prefecture, here it turns out is one of the most popular spots for suicide in Japan. The cliffs themselves are known to provide a quick death as some reach a height of 23 meters whilst the water below is about 20 meters deep and surrounded by jagged rock formations.
Yukio Shige is a retired police detective who is haunted by the memories of those he could not save. Once while walking the trails along the cliffs he stumbled across an elderly couple, because of the time of day and how dark it was he instantly knew that they were contemplating suicide. After calling out to them and having a gentle conversation he was able to convince them to seek the help they needed.
A short time after this incident he received a letter from the couple, it stated that they appreciated his kindness towards them and that they contacted the authorities for help as suggested, but were turned away. This letter was their suicide note and because of this Shige frequently keeps a close eye on the Cliffs.
After retiring from the police force Shige started a non-profit support group which was aimed at helping those that suffered from depression. This hasn’t been an easy task as the community surrounding the cliffs has turned their notoriety into a booming tourist attraction.
Gatekeeper is a respectful but stark examination of Japanese suicide culture and how this extraordinary man has become a testament to human kindness.